The Chicago Wolves have struggled so much on the power play they were willing to trade their leading scorer in order to do something about it.
Center Corey Locke, a six-time AHL all-star and former MVP, was sent to the Abbotsford Heat on Thursday. The Wolves received defenseman Mark Cundari on loan from the Heat's parent club, Calgary. The Flames retain Cundari's NHL rights.
"We thought needed another offensive defenseman," Wolves coach John Anderson said after practice Thursday at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville. "Our power play has been sputtering, so we're trying to get someone up here who can really quarterback it the way we want it to be done."
The Wolves rank last in the 30-team AHL for overall power play with 21 goals in 184 opportunities (11.4 percent). They've only scored nine power-play goals in their past 20 games, going without any in 13 of those games.
It's been an ongoing issue all season, one that has perplexed not only fans, but the players, coaches and front office. By acquiring Cundari, the Wolves now have two defensemen capable of being the quarterback. Captain Taylor Chorney is the other.
Cundari was second among Heat defensemen with four goals and six assists in 32 games this season. The fourth-year pro has 24 goals and 83 points in 207 AHL games with the Heat and Peoria.
And he's no stranger to the Blues organization, which signed him as a free agent in 2008. After completing his juniors career, Cundari spent most of his first three professional seasons with the Rivermen, the Blues former partner.
He joined the Flames organization last spring in the trade that brought former Wolves defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis. He made his NHL debut with the Flames, scoring one goal and adding two assists in four games.
Cundari is expected to join the Wolves in time for Saturday's day game in Toronto against the North Division-leading Marlies. That's also when forward Adam Cracknell is expected to be with the Wolves. Cracknell was reassigned by the Blues on Thursday just prior to the trade announcement.
The addition of Cracknell still leaves the Wolves with one more than the maximum veteran players allowed to play each game.
Locke joined the Wolves as a free-agent signing in the offseason after playing last year in Europe. A gifted playmaker, he has 545 career points in 609 AHL games across nine seasons. The Heat will be the sixth AHL team the 29-year-old has played for.
"The hard thing is if you want to make a trade, you gotta give up something to get something," Anderson said. "Very seldom do you get a guy for virtually nothing unless it's a financial thing."
In addition to being tied with Mark Mancari for the team-lead in points, Locke led the team with 19 assists. But he had only one goal and two assists in his past 10 games, including only one assist this month.
Still, Anderson didn't want to see him leave.
"it's not easy to give up Corey Locke. It's a very difficult decision," Anderson said. "He's a great kid, so it was very hard to do. Personally, I'm a little upset we had to do it, but sometimes you have to put your feelings aside, and do what you think is best for the group. I wish him all the best. He still has lots of career left."